Gerard Pique's emotional goodbye shows what he meant to fans as wasteful Barcelona climb in LaLiga

Will Gerard Pique go down as one of history's best? (1:36)

Janusz Michallik gushes with praise for Gerard Pique, who will retire when La Liga breaks for the World Cup. (1:36)

BARCELONA -- It was a routine win for Barcelona as they beat Almeria 2-0 on Saturday night at Camp Nou to move to the top of the LaLiga table. But the match wasn't really about that.

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Longtime Barcelona defender Gerard Pique played his final match in front of home fans after he announced that he will retire when the Spanish league breaks for the World Cup this month.

Here is ESPN's Sam Marsden with reaction and analysis from Camp Nou.

JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Post-match quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures

Rapid reaction

1. Wasteful Barca find shooting boots to go top

Barcelona may have feared this would be one of those nights at halftime. They managed 16 shots in the first half and had an xG of 2.53 -- the highest on record in a scoreless first half since 2010-11 -- but had no goals to show for their efforts. Robert Lewandowski had missed a penalty, and Ferran Torres alone had wasted six chances at an xG of 0.99. At the other end, only a brilliant save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen to keep out Largie Ramazani kept Almeria out.

However, any fears of failing to break down Almeria's five-man backline quickly evaporated after the break. Ousmane Dembele opened the scoring in the 48th minute with a fine solo goal, cutting in from the right to finish low in the bottom corner after a raking pass from Sergio Busquets. Then Frenkie De Jong added the second just after the hour mark, turning home after Ansu Fati's shot was saved.

In the end, the win was as routine as they come. It takes Barca top of the league, temporarily at least, two points clear of Real Madrid, who travel to Rayo Vallecano on Monday. Aside from last month's loss to Madrid, it's been an almost perfect season for Barca domestically so far: 11 wins, one draw and just that solitary defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu.

2. Pique bows out a club legend

This game was really about Gerard Pique as he made his 616th appearance for Barcelona and his last ever at Camp Nou. He will retire from playing after Tuesday's visit to Osasuna, Barca's final game before the Spanish league breaks for the World Cup.

Sergio Busquets handed him the captain's armband for the match and, along with his sons Milan and Sasha, he led the team out for kick off to chants of "Pique, Pique, Pique" from the crowd of 92,605. It was the largest attendance at Camp Nou since the 2019 Clasico (93,426), which in itself is a sign of how well-regarded Pique is by the club's supporters.

Those fans cheered his every touch and chanted for him to take the early penalty. Lewandowski even appeared to offer it to him, but he turned down the chance to say goodbye with a goal. Instead, he bid farewell with three points on what was a relatively quiet night to be a Barca centre-back.

The most emotional moment came in the 83rd minute, when he was substituted. He embraced each of his teammates, received a thunderous standing ovation and waved to his adoring public. His 14 years in Barca's first team have yielded 30 trophies, including eight league titles and three Champions Leagues and more may follow off the pitch, albeit as the club president rather than the coach.

Thursday's goodbye video promised he would be back.

Emotional Gerard Pique says goodbye to Barcelona

Gerard Pique comes off to standing ovation from the Camp Nou as he leaves the field for the final time as a Barcelona player.

3. The two sides of Dembele

Dembele's opener was brilliant. He showed pace to race on to a long ball from Busquets, skill to cut inside past two dawdling defenders and then composure to role the ball effortlessly into the bottom corner.

The frustration for Barca is while he is capable of doing that, he is so inconsistent. Moments later, he was played through again and rounded the goalkeeper, but this time it was Dembele who dawdled. Rather than shoot when the goal was gaping, he delayed, delayed and delayed. And the chance was gone. The goal and the miss sum up Dembele.

Just two weeks ago, against Athletic Bilbao, he scored one and set up three. A week later, he disappeared against Valencia. Against Almeria, there was a little bit of everything.

Player ratings

Barcelona: Ter Stegen 7; Balde 7, Pique 7, Alonso 6, Alba 8; Busquets 6, Pedri 7, De Jong 7; Dembele 7, Lewandowski 6, Torres 5

Subs: Ansu 6, Raphinha 6, Gavi 6, Christensen 5

Almeria: Martinez 7; Mendes 6, Kaiky 5, Ely 6, Chumi 5, Akieme 5; Robertone 6, Melero 6, Costa 5; Baptistao 5, Ramazani 6

Subs: Sousa 5, Babic 5, Eguaras 5, Puigmal 5, Portillo 5

Best and worst performers

BEST: Jordi Alba, Barcelona

A constant source of danger on the left. The quality of his deliveries rarely let him down.

WORST: Ferran Torres, Barcelona

On the one hand he was a menace, constantly getting into shooting positions, but on the other hand he failed to take a single chance which came his way in his hour on the pitch.

Highlights and notable moments

The focus of the match was always going to be on Pique and his final home game in front of Barcelona's fans, and his children joined the pre-match walkout:

Barcelona dominated the first half, out-shooting Almeria 16-1, but couldn't get anything from it.

Lewandowski had a chance to pull ahead with a penalty but missed it wide:

Lewandowski misses early penalty for Barcelona

Robert Lewandowski misses penalty vs. from Barcelona vs. Almería

It didn't take long after halftime for Barcelona to find their lead, which carried them through to the final result.

Dembele took on Almeria's defense by himself, and the finish was lovely:

Ousmane Dembele scores delightful solo goal

Ousmane Dembélé goal 48th minute Barcelona 1-0 Almería

After the match: What the players and managers said

Gerard Pique: "First of all, thanks to all my teammates, coaching staff, club employees... to everyone who makes the day-to-day at the club easier. Thanks to the board of directors for all these years. In life, as you grow older, you realise sometimes to love is to let go [starts crying]...

"A relationship of so much love, so much passion, I think it is the moment to give ourselves some space. That is why I think it is the right moment to go, because I love this club. I am convinced that I will be back in the future. This is not a goodbye, I left when I was 17 and I came back. My grandad made me a member when I was born. I was born here and I will die here."

Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez: "It was a historic night for Gerard. We played really well. We wanted to send him off in the best possible way. The bigger the game for him, the better he performs. I have already told him what a legend he is at Barcelona and how grateful we are for all that he has done."

Xavi on Lewandowski's missed penalty: "It's good news that when Robert does not score, others do. We don't just depend on him. The others have to step up when he doesn't make the difference."

Key stats (via ESPN Stats & Info)

  • Lewandowski's penalty kick miss snaps a streak of five consecutive penalty kicks scored. It was his fist miss since Dec. 2021 vs. Benfica.

  • Dembélé's four goals are his third most in a single LaLiga season with Barcelona. His most is eight in 2018-19.

  • Piqué's 30 LaLiga goals are the third-most by a Barcelona defender all-time behind Ronald Koeman (67) and Seguer (38).

Up next

Barcelona: Barca have a quicker turnaround for their final match before the World Cup as they head to Osasuna on Tuesday, Nov. 8 in LaLiga action. (Stream it live at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+.)

Almeria: Almeria play twice more before breaking for the World Cup. First they host Getafe in LaLiga play on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. ET (stream it live on ESPN+) and then they head to Arenteiro on Sunday, Nov. 13 to compete in the Copa del Rey (also available on ESPN+).